Famous worldwide for its university, Cambridge claims to have one of the highest concentrations of preserved historic buildings in England. Most of this architectural splendor is centered on the 31 colleges of the University of Cambridge, each rich in traditions. The first of these “schools” were created in the 12th century by immigrant academics from Paris, and the first college, Peterhouse, was founded in 1284.
Long before the university was founded, Cambridge was an important Norman fortification. Although its castle was short lived (Castle Mound can still be seen near Shire Hall and offers great views of the city), the city remains an important market town to this day, and Market Hill, originally the center from the old Cambridge wool trade, still serves as the location for the city’s bustling market. Despite its romantic and medieval character, Cambridge is a very modern city that hosts a variety of first-rate cultural events throughout the year, including the mid-summer fair (800 years old and held in the same place on Midsummer Common), the famous Cambridge Folk Festival (one of the longest and longest in Europe) and a world-class film festival. It is also popular for its many green spaces, including the 25-acre Parker room, famous as the birthplace of modern football, and the Victorian Christ rooms, known for its beautiful ornamental trees and flower beds. . One of the most popular things to do in Cambridge is to “punt” along the Cam River, which flows through the heart of the city and offers incredible views.
1. Queens’ College and the Mathematical Bridge
Founded in 1448 by Andrew Dockett under the patronage of Margaret d’Anjou, wife of Henri VI, Queens’ College was redesigned in 1465 by Elizabeth Woodville, wife of Edward IV. It has the most complete medieval buildings of any Cambridge college, including the magnificent walkway leading to the first red brick courtyard, dating from the founding period.
Other Queens’ College sites to visit include the wooden mathematical bridge, a 1902 reconstruction leading over the cam to the beautiful college gardens (the bridge is so called because it was built without nails, in s ‘pressing his strength on a meticulous calculation); Cloister Court (1460) with President’s Lodge, a beautiful half-timbered building; Pump Court with the Erasmus tower above the rooms, occupied by Erasmus when he taught Greek here (1511-1514); and Walnut Tree Court (1618) and Friars Court with the Erasmus building (1961) and the Victorian chapel (1891).
2. Cambridge University Botanic Garden
Covering an area of approximately 40 acres, the University of Cambridge Botanical Garden is a must for gardening enthusiasts. Created in 1831, the garden presents an impressive collection of over 8,000 species of plants from around the world. Make sure you spend time walking through the many greenhouses and trails in the garden, which can be done as part of a guided tour (free on Sundays). Then be sure to visit the Garden Café and the Botanic Garden Shop.
3. Trinity College
Founded in 1546 by Henry VIII, Trinity College was created by the amalgamation of several older colleges, including Michaelhouse and King’s Hall. Beyond King Edward’s Gate (1418), some parts of the old buildings of King’s Hall are still identifiable. Trinity Great Court is Cambridge’s largest courtyard and was built around 1600. A passage leads to Nevile’s Court (1614), with its chapel and statues of distinguished scholars. The Wren library, with its old oak bookcases and fine linden wood carvings, was added later.
Trinity has more distinguished former members than any other college: statesmen Austen Chamberlain, Stanley Baldwin and Nehru; poets and writers such as George Herbert and Edward Fitzgerald; the philosopher Bertrand Russell; and scientist Isaac Newton. Edward VII and George VI also attended Trinity. From New Court, or King’s Court, take the bridge over the Cam for its beautiful view of the Dos. A magnificent avenue of limes leads to College Grounds.
4. Fitzwilliam Museum
Cambridge’s most famous museum, the Fitzwilliam should be on the must-see list of tourist attractions. This architectural masterpiece contains a magnificent collection of English pottery and porcelain, as well as Greek, Roman and Egyptian antiquities and illuminated manuscripts. The exceptionally fine gallery has works by Hogarth, Gainsborough and Turner as well as Dutch impressionists and masters of the Baroque, including Rembrandt, Van Dyck and Rubens.
5. Anglesey Abbey, Gardens and Lode Mill
Although built in the 12th century, the Anglesey Abbey was renovated in 1926 and has become a house of art and furniture. Now owned by the National Trust, this spectacular home contains numerous tapestries from Gobelin, Soho and Anglesey, as well as an art collection featuring the opening of the Waterloo Bridge by Constable Constable.
Be sure to spend time enjoying the surrounding gardens and 114 acres of parkland, including the wildlife discovery area, where young visitors can watch birds and insects in their natural habitats, and the linden gazebo . Next, visit the historic water mill – the Lode mill – to watch the millstones do their job.
6. Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
Developed by the University of Cambridge in 1884, the Museum of Archeology and Anthropology has a large collection of prehistoric materials and artefacts dealing with social anthropology. Collections have been collected around the world and include pieces from Africa and the Orient, with an emphasis on the visual and classical arts. Of particular note is the Pacific collection, drawn mainly from Cook’s explorations, and other research projects carried out by notable British anthropologists.
Be sure to also visit the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences which houses the university’s geology collection, including some two million minerals, rocks and fossils. Highlights include many specimens of meteorites, as well as the Beagle collection of fossils and rocks collected by Charles Darwin between 1831 and 1836. The recently renovated University Museum of Zoology is also interesting. Highlights include a large collection of scientifically important zoological material.
7. Peterhouse College
The oldest (and also one of the smallest) of Cambridge colleges, Peterhouse was founded in 1284. Its historic hall and storeroom on the south side of Old Court are the oldest of the original 13th century buildings. Among those who studied here were Cardinal Beaufort, chemist Henry Cavendish and poet Thomas Gray. The chapel stained glass windows (imported from Munich in the 1850s) and the 17th century altar window are worth a visit.
8. Pembroke College
Pembroke College was founded in 1347 by the Countess of Pembroke but has changed considerably since. The chapel (1665) is known as the first work of the architect Christopher Wren and was then enlarged in 1881. Pembroke produced numerous bishops and poets, the most famous being Edmund Spenser (1552-99). Reform bishop Nicholas Ridley, burned at the stake in Oxford, and statesman William Pitt also graduated here.
9. Museums of Cambridge, Technology, and Science
One of the most popular museums in Cambridge, the Museum of Cambridge offers exhibits and exhibitions focusing on the daily life of local people from the 18th to the 20th century. In the former White Horse Inn, the museum displays a large collection of artifacts, including coins, costumes, medals, toys and medicine, as well as many interesting works of art.
Also worth visiting is the Cambridge Museum of Technology, which focuses on the county’s industrial past. Housed in a Victorian pumping station, the museum features a working steam winch formerly used to transport ash along a narrow gauge railway, as well as a variety of other engines and a collection of antique printing equipment. The Whipple Museum of the History of Science is also worth a visit for its fascinating collections of ancient scientific artifacts, including instruments and engravings dating back to the 17th century.
10. National Horse Racing Museum
Just 21 km east of Cambridge, Newmarket has been a center for English horse racing since 1174. Horse lovers will enjoy visiting the National Horse Racing Museum on picturesque High Street. The exhibitions focus on the history of the “sport of kings”, still one of the most popular sports in Britain. The collection includes paintings of famous horses and jockeys, old saddles, equipment and trophies. There are actually several stables in the city, not to mention the famous hippodrome and the training of “gallops” nearby.